'Grim reaper' stolen from Russian street

Grim Reaper traffic sign, Arkhangelsk, Russia, September 2019 Image copyright Arkhangelsk City Council
Image caption Arkhangelsk welcomes careful drivers

The Russian city of Arkhangelsk caused a stir by putting up a statue of the Grim Reaper on a roadside to put motorists off speeding, only for thieves to steal it later in the day.

The short-lived speed sign stood at an accident black-spot on Leningrad Highway in the far-northern city, and soon became a landmark and talking point on social media, the local news site 29.ru reports.

The black-shrouded figure, made to order by a craftsman from local pine, was meant to "discourage drivers from speeding up on that stretch of road since it's been repaired", spokeswoman Tatyana Simindei told the site.

A few members of the public liked the idea - "it's good to see some creativity in the city," wrote one on the council's official social media page - but most thought it was in poor taste.

'Arkhangelsk - City of Horror'

"A gravestone decoration at an accident spot?" asked one poster in incredulity, while others said the money could have been better spent repairing potholes and traffic lights rather than on "roadside clown shows".

"Face it - you're not going to fail to see that on the road," one official told the Komsomsolskaya Pravda national newspaper, but many local people countered that drivers could easily cause more accidents if startled by seeing the Grim Reaper bearing down on them.

"How about hanging a body in a gibbet in front of city hall, with a sign round his neck calling on everyone to work for the common good?" suggested one social media user.

"The only thought that springs to mind is that Arkhangelsk has become a city of horrors," laments another commentator on the VK social media platform.

The Reaper quickly became an internet meme, 29.ru says, with online wags replacing the warning sign with slogans including "Radiation Level: Normal" - a reference to the August explosion at a military test range west of the city.

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Someone who either really disliked the figure - or coveted it for themselves - took matters into their own hands later in the day and stole Death away. To add to the council's discomfort, they only found out about it from their own VK page, as a reader reported seeing thieves loading the statue onto a tow truck.

The statue turned up a few days later, dumped over a fence not far from the scene of the crime.

"Only the scythe was damaged, and we will be putting the figure back in a few days' time," the council said, adding that it plans to make the Reaper mobile and move him around danger-spots on the city's roads.

The police are on the trail of the thieves, and one social media user has a prime suspect - "Our patron, the Archangel Michael, still protects the city, and probably sent some good people over to deal with the statue".

Image copyright Arkhangelsk City Council
Image caption Death will resume dominion

Reporting by Yaroslava Kiryukhina and Martin Morgan

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